On August 13th, the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was officially accepted by President Donald Trump.
The bill introduces a host of Navy and Marine Corps programs as well as new policy initiatives to take effect. The FY 2019 NDAA sets the spending and policy priorities for the Department of Defense. It allows for a budget of $717 billion.
“The National Defense Authorization Act is the most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in modern history,” Trump said August 13th. “We are going to strengthen our military like never ever before and that’s what we did.”
There are numerous significant items that are allowed funding by the NDAA.
There are $7.6 billion for 77 of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and $85 million for UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters, from Sikorsky, a unit of Lockheed Martin. Congress also agreed to fully fund the U.S. Air Force’s new long-range stealth B-21 bomber. America’s next heavy bomber is named “Raider” and made by Northrop Grumman.
$1.56 billion were designated for three littoral combat ships, even though the Navy only requested one.
There is a $225.3 million budget for Stryker A1 combat vehicles and supports efforts to modernize the Army’s armored combat vehicles, which includes: 135 M1 Abrams tanks, 60 Bradley fighting vehicles, 197 armored multipurpose vehicles, 38 improved recovery vehicles, and 3,390 joint light tactical vehicles.
The integration of the Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense systems will be funded with $284 million.
The policies are, however, what is most noteworthy.
The NDAA orders a halt to arms sales to Turkey, a partner in the F-35 fighter jet program. The ban on arms sales and the blocking of the F-35 delivery is for a period of 90 days. During the period, the Pentagon has to produce a report detailing U.S.-Turkish relations and the effect of cutting Turkey out of the F-35 production chain. Turkey received its first 2 F-35 fighter jets in a ceremony in June in Texas. However, the jets are still in the US, where Turkish pilots are being trained. The aircraft will not arrive in Turkey earlier than late 2019.
This, and the delivery of a further 28 currently on order, have been targeted in the NDAA due to Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia and imprisonment of U.S. citizens, including Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor held on terror charges since Oct. 2016.
Regarding Iran, the NDAA focuses on a strategy to counter the destabilizing activity of Iran. The elements of the strategy include: identifying specific countries in which Iran and Iranian-backed entities “are operating and establishing a cooperative framework that includes one or more of the following: investing in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; investing in mine countermeasures resources and platforms; investing in integrated air and missile defense platforms and technologies; sharing intelligence and data between the United States and such foreign countries; investing in cyber security and cyber defense capabilities; engaging in combined planning and exercises; engaging in defense education, institution building, doctrinal development, and reform; assessing Iran’s destabilizing activities in the countries identified under subparagraph (A) and the implications thereof.” No later than 180 of the enactment of the NDAA, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the respective defense committees on the actions taken to counter the destabilizing actions of Iran and the strategy that was authorized. The report will be annual until December 2021. The NDAA does not authorize the use of military force against Iran.
Regarding Russia, the NDAA sought to limit US participation in Open Skies and new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaties with Russia. The provisions were watered down after talks between the House and the Senate, as cited by RT.
Section 1233 of the NDAA, if it did not undergo a change would have claimed that Russia was in material breach of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and that the US was therefore legally entitled to suspend adhering to it, as reported by RT. Section 1240 wouldn’t have been accepted at first, it prohibited funding of the new 2010 START nuclear arms control treaty, until Trump certified he raised the issue of Russia’s new nuclear weapons systems with Moscow.
When it came down to the 1992 Treat on Open Skies, which went into effect on 2002, Section 1232 initially prohibited the spending of funds in 2019 for modifying any surveillance planes for operations under the treaty, until Trump certifies that the US has “imposed legal countermeasures” on Moscow. This was due to a claim that Russia was violating the treaty.
In response to the claim that Russia is in violation of the Open Skies Treaty, Sputnik cited Yevgeny Serebrennikov, the deputy chair of the Russian upper house’s defense and security committee, who said that the country fully complies with the provisions of the agreement. “The US accusations against us are completely groundless. Russia acts in full compliance with the agreements and their terms — as well as with the agreement on the destruction of chemical weapons,” Serebrennikov said.
In June 2017, the United States said Moscow was violating the terms of the Open Skies Treaty by placing restrictions on overflights of Kaliningrad, Russia’s enclave on the Baltic Sea. The United States said it would implement restrictions on Russian observation flights over the United States on January 1, 2018. The Russian Foreign Ministry has denied the accusations, saying that Russia complies with all its obligations under all international agreements, including the Open Skies Treaty.
Regarding the START treaties, US has concerns regarding the Sarmat missiles among other new strategic weapon systems, which do not comply with the new treaty. Serebrennikov noted that Russia can provide additional materials to prove that the Sarmat does not fall under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). “The Russian side has repeatedly provided the United States with evidence that these weapons in no way violate the New START treaty. They do not want to accept this evidence. Perhaps the Russian side will provide additional materials … I hope that these arguments will be accepted, but there is less and less hope,” were his words.
In accordance with the NDAA, US will discuss with Russia the latter’s new strategic weapon systems, including the Sarmat missile system, the air-launched nuclear-powered cruise missile X-101, the unmanned underwater vehicle the US government calls “Status 6,” and the long-distance guided flight hypersonic glide vehicle Avangard. After the discussions it will be deemed whether they are in compliance with the new START treaty.
Furthermore, President Trump must present a report to Congress on persons involved in transactions with Russia’s intelligence or military sectors within 90 days of August 13th. “Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that describes those persons that the President has determined under section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [CAATSA]… have knowingly engaged, on or after August 2, 2017, in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation,” the NDAA stated. It also requires the US President to update the report every 90 days following the first submission over the next five years.
The NDAA also revealed that the US government extended its ban against cooperating militarily with Russia in a bilateral format. This prohibition was first enacted in NDAA 2017 and it says that none of the funds may be used for any bilateral military-to-military cooperation with Russia until Moscow implements the Minsk accords and returns Crimea to Ukrainian sovereignty. However, NDAA 2019 adds a provision that authorizes negotiations between Washington and Moscow.
Regarding China, the NDAA has provisions that prioritize a “long-term strategic competition with China.” It also calls for the evaluation of propaganda, economic tools, hacking and “defense installations,” that Beijing allegedly uses against Washington. The NDAA strengthens the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). It reviews proposals to determine if they threaten national security, that measure, according to Reuters was seen as targeting China.
Reuters cited a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, released on early August 14th: “The US should objectively and fairly treat Chinese investors, and avoid CFIUS becoming an obstacle to investment cooperation between Chinese and US firms.”
The statement further contained Beijing’s protests against the adoption of the NDAA, which includes “negatives” regarding China. “We urge the US to be objective regarding China and Chinese-US relations, to strictly adhere to the One China principle and three US-Chinese joint statements, to avoid implementing the negative provisions of the bill so as not to harm Chinese-US relations as well as bilateral cooperation in the most important fields.”
On the same day, China’s Defense Ministry issued a statement criticizing the NDAA. “On August 13, the United States signed the 2019 US National Defense Authorization Act into law. The content of this law abounds in Cold War thinking, exaggerates the level of the China-US confrontation, interferes in China’s internal affairs, violates the One-China principle and three China-US communiques, undermines the atmosphere of development of China-US military ties, damages China-US mutual trust and cooperation,” the statement said.
These measures come as US and China have engaged in a “trade war”, imposing tariffs on their respective goods. The Chinese Finance Ministry has accused Washington’s actions of “disrupting the global supply chain and free trade system” and causing “serious damage” to the interests of China and its citizens. It also further warned that the US actions may have a negative impact on the global economic growth.